Easy composting for all
Don’t know where to start with composting, don’t have the space, or just want to supercharge what you already have? Well, don’t worry, I am here to help.
Food waste is a big problem, households in the UK alone are responsible for 6.6 million tonnes of wasted food. There are lots of things we can and should do to reduce including giving zero-waste cooking a go. But the average person won’t be able to eliminate all food waste, so the next best thing is to compost it yourself.
I know it is intimidating, especially when you have small children, a tight budget, little room… my excuses went on and on. However, once I stopped procrastinating and properly looked into it, I found it wasn’t all that difficult and there are many ways to do composting no matter your budget or space. So I’m here to help and pass on my experience.
There are 4 main ways to “do” composting that are suitable for people at home:
EMO Composting (bacteria composting)
Worm Farm Composting (Vermicomposting)
Effective MicroOrganisms (EMO) uses bacteria. A common product is Bokashi.
Two or more stacked boxes that use worms to aid the composting process.
A rotating drum.
Fruit and vegetables
(small amounts of citrus and onion)
(small amounts of citrus and onion)
Coffee Grounds/Filters/Tea bags
Newspaper and cardboard
Untreated wood ash/ sawdust
Time to compost
Fast: 4-6 weeks
Moderate: 2 to 4 months
Fast: 3-6 weeks
Slow: up to 12 months
£60 for a 2 box starter + about £40 per year for the “bran”.
£10 (make your own) – £65
£80 – £150
Free – £30
Skaza Bokashi Organko
Original Organics Deluxe WORMERY KIT
SQUEEZE master Dual Chamber Compost Tumbler
Make your own
This sounds complicated but is actually one of the easiest to do. One of the most widely used form of Effective MicroOrganisms (or EMO to its friends) is Bokashi. Bokashi kitchen composters allow you to compost all your food waste indoors. This form of composting is faster than a traditional garden compost pile and can handle any food waste. You simply chuck your food waste into a fully sealed container and sprinkle the all-important “Bokashi Bran” over it before sealing the container. It takes 4-6 weeks to turn into useful compost but you get “compost tea” out more regularly. You can dilute and feed your plants with the compost tea, it is also apparently good for unblocking drains – but I’ve not tested that yet.
You can pick up two bin Skaza Bokashi composting sets with a starter pack of bran for around £60. You’ll also need to factor in replacing the Bokashi bran, this will come to about £40 per year.
Get two containers – when one is full you can leave it to sit while you fill the other.
Line the container with newspaper for easier cleaning.
Press down the waste firmly as the bacteria require a low oxygen environment.
Worm Farm composting
Worm composting is exactly as it sounds, it uses worms to break down food waste and other organic material into something called worm compost or vermicompost, you’ll also get a liquid called “worm tea” which is a great nitrogen-rich fertiliser for your plants. This method of composting can be small so pick the right containers for your space. The basic setup is a tower of at least two compartments. A lower area collects the liquid (worm tea) and the upper area is where the kitchen waste goes and the worms hang out.
The worm farm works best at temperatures between 18-25℃ so work best when kept in your kitchen, shed, or garage. The worm farm should be odour free but can give off bad odours if you neglect the worms or feed them things like dairy.
If worm farm composting sounds like a thing for you have a look at this article for more information.
Basic compost recipe for
For both tumbler composting and open-air composting you need to get the nitrogen and carbon levels right. The lingo used by composting experts is “green” waste to mean the high in nitrogen stuff and “brown” waste to mean the things high in carbon. But don’t panic, this sounds more complicated than it really is, all you need to do is follow this basic recipe and you’ll get great results:
- 1-2 parts Greens – wet/fresh ingredients (high in nitrogen) such as fruit & vegetable scraps, fresh grass, coffee grounds, tea leaves (don’t use tea bags unless you know they don’t have plastic in them).
- 3 parts Browns – dry ingredients (high in carbon) such as shredded newspaper, dried leaves, dried grass, cardboard, or straw
- Oxygen – the bacteria that break down your compost pile require an oxygen rich environment. Turning the compost regularly achieves this. It reheats the contents and speeds up the composting process.
It isn’t the end of the world if you don’t get the levels quite right, it will just mean that the composting process takes a bit longer.
This is a great system if you have a lot of green and brown waste to get through and are relatively strong as you’ll need to turn the drum every day or two. You can get drums that are fairly compact so work in small gardens or balconies. The turning aerates the compost and provides that all-important oxygen.
Tumbler composting is faster than open-air composting but generally costs more and the compost that comes out of a tumbler has fewer nutrients than compost from an open-air composter. So go for a tumbler if you have a small outside space and/or you have a lot of green/brown waste to compost, otherwise I’d go for a compost bin or bay.
Tumblers tend to be an expensive way to compost but you can pick up a decent one for about £80. The SQUEEZE master dual chamber compost tumbler is a nice one that has the benefit of two sections, so when you fill one up you can leave it to do its composting thing and add new material to the other side.
Open-air composting is traditionally just a pile of green and brown matter in your garden. This could simply be a pile somewhere but you often contain this pile in a bay or bin. Other than the price range and look of your compost pile, the main thing to consider before buying or making a bay is, how you’re going to turn the pile to give it the air. You can get relatively small footprint compost bins but their small size makes it tricky to turn your compost.
Compost bays can be made from anything you get your hands on, for example, a few pallets, so can be free or you can buy a fancy modular one. Some councils provide the bays/bin for free so check with them before spending any money.